Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Thanks to my brother for recommending the excellent Danish crime series, "Follow the Money"

We watched the first episode of Follow the Money when it aired on BBC Four ten weeks ago. For some reason or other, it didn't click with us. Maybe it was because it started with Ukrainian immigrants dying in an accident at a Green Energy company plant, and we assumed it was going to be a standard left-wing, bleeding-heart "aren't we horrible to immigrants" number. Whatever the reason, we decided not to follow it. I felt my resolve weaken when James Delingpole lauded the series for exposing the sheer horribleness of the people running the renewable energy industry -  sanctimonious smugness masking levels of mendacity, greed, corruption and cant that would make the very worst bankers, arms dealers, estate agents and corporate lawyers seem positively saintly by comparison. But I held firm. Then my brother started telling us how great it was - and we caved in. Thank goodness.

We've spent the last three nights getting through the next nine unmissable one-hour episodes. The series came to an end on BBC Four last Saturday night, but all ten episodes are available on the iPlayer and Sky Catch-Up (and, presumably, on Cable and Freeview boxes connected to the internet). If you haven't been watching it, and have ten hours to spare, do give it a try. You will not be disappointed.

We've been watching Scandi Noir crime series on British TV for eight years now. It began with the second TV incarnation of the Swedish Wallander on BBC Four in 2008, and was followed by, among others, The Killing,  Borgen, The Bridge, The Legacy, Beck, the 1950s-set Crimes of Passion, the fast -improving Arne Dahl, the mystical sci-fi/horror weirdness that was Jordskott, and, earlier this year, the deeply wonderful Icelandic series, Trapped. Unfortunately, I didn't much enjoy any of the three Norwegian series broadcast on British TV - Mammon (everyone was so bloody ugly), Occupied (far too much eco-wankery) and Lilyhammer (too comedic for my taste) - but they all had their fans. The French have been making a pretty good fist of it as well, what with Spiral, Braquo and Witnesses. The Americans gave us the sublime first series of True Detective. Even the Germans got into the act with the Cold War spy thriller, Deutschland 83 - but that was more Get Smart than noir. Here in Blighty, we've also had our moments recently - Happy Valley, The Fall, The Tunnel (the Anglo-French version of The Bridge), and Between the Lines. True, most of our home-grown stuff has been either dozy/cosy (Midsomer Murders, Grantchester), would-be noir (Hinterland - which is Welsh and is so unremittingly slow and dreary it will make you want to commit suicide - Marcella, the utterly execrable River, poor old pathetic, muddled Fortitude, and hilariously angst-ridden Shetland), or silly (Sherlock - it used to be fun, but it disappeared, giggling, up its own fundament several episodes ago).

The problem with so many British detective dramas is that they're often much too slow, far too concerned with creating a dark, doomy, murky atmosphere, and try to achieve "significance" by embedding a whole series of achingly obvious, clichéd messages (immigrants are lovely, Christians are mad, businessmen are evil, women are oppressed, the police are corrupt etc.) Apart from the honourable exceptions mentioned above, most British cop show writers, directors and actors should start by facing the fact that they are not Scandinavians (bad luck) - what appears natural and convincing when everyone's going "mork, mork, mork" in Copenhagen,  Stockholm or Oslo tends to look silly and unconvincing when your drama is set in London or Manchester. Then they should sit down and watch all ten episodes of Follow the Money to remind themselves (if they ever knew) how to keep the plot zipping along at a brisk pace at the same time as exploring the complex personal lives of all the main characters; how to portray the police and the work they do convincingly; and how to make the viewer absolutely, wall-climbingly desperate to know what happens to everyone at the end. Oh, and, while they're at it, they could also show some bravery - just for once - by focussing on one the Liberal Left's cherished fantasies (e.g. immigration is an unalloyed blessing, Green Energy companies just want to help make the world a better place), and kick it right in the old goolies as hard as they possibly can. Go on, lefties - give it a try!

Okay, bro, I'll admit it - Follow the Money (in which, unless I'm mistaken, the accounting practices of the wind-energy company Evergreen bore a strong resemblance to those which made Enron such a success) was better than The Night Manager. Satisfied?


  1. Goodness, you spend more time in front of the box than I imagined: do you have your food sent in? At nine hours over three nights you put 'us' in the shade. Here at Mahler Heights we prefer the delayed gratification that one episode a day of the made-for-television version of Fargo brings - spending whole days wondering whether Billy Bob can go one-better than "Lester, is this what you want?"

    1. To be honest, mahlerman, I don't get out much these days - but I've always spent too much time in front of the TV. We've never actually binge-watched a series before - although I suspect we'd have stayed up till five in the morning if we'd had the Fargo II boxset rather than having to wait a whole painful week for the next instalment.